July 30, 2013 Update: Virtual Partner Concierge is no longer available, but I invite you to join the new US Partner Community on Yammer, at http://aka.ms/uspyammer (instructions). All of the features of Concierge that helped you stay informed and find resources related to your membership and areas of interest are part of Yammer, plus Yammer brings the benefit of better engagement with Microsoft and other partners. Thanks to those of you who were users and fans of Concierge. It was fun building it and learning how you used it. I hope to see you on Yammer!
At the Worldwide Partner Conference in July, I had the opportunity to talk to many partners while working in the U.S. Partner Lounge, before and after sessions, and at the U.S. Party. One topic I am always keen to chat about with partners is how they stay informed and current on Microsoft products, programs, and opportunities. Invariably, there is a comment from the partner that goes something like, “There’s so much information and so many things to keep track of, and it’s often overwhelming.” Yes, indeed.
Now, I could wax on here about how we’re using social media—like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn—to make it easier for partners to get timely information, and I could talk about the U.S. partner newsletter that contains content targeted to each individual according to profile data, but I won’t. Instead, I’d like to introduce you to Virtual Partner Concierge, an online tool that helps U.S. partners navigate the many resources and tools Microsoft offers them, and lets them not only find great content, but get back to it easily, time and again.
A Consistent, Simple Interface
Built in Silverlight and running Windows Azure and SQL Azure, and using Windows Live ID to authenticate that you are a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, this screenshot captures just about everything you need to know about the experience:
- You can see the whole Concierge interface with minimal scrolling, and wherever you are in Concierge, the experience is consistent.
- You have a variety of partner-related topics from which to choose (“My Views,” on the right-hand side). Each “View” is curated by a subject-matter expert in the topic. Since you must sign in with your Windows Live ID, we are able to serve up some Views specifically to you based on your MPN membership. For example, if you are an Action Pack subscriber, you will see that view.
- On the left-hand side, in the blue-tinted boxes, you see a date-stamped message that has broad partner appeal (select “view all” to see these announcements for up to the past 30 days); you can create a list of favorites (“My Links”) and see the past 10 actions you took on Concierge (“My History”); you can see links that may be of interest to you based on the current topic.
- On the right-hand side, in the green-tinted boxes, you see a date-stamped message from the subject-matter expert specific to the View you have chosen (in this screenshot, you are in the default View, Welcome to Concierge) and can again select “view all” to see up to 30 days of announcements; you have access to up to 10 Microsoft online recommendations from the View’s owner and up to 10 online recommendations for third-party content, like press articles or non-Microsoft blog posts; you can connect to relevant support and social media resources.
- For each of the messages and recommendations, you can leave a comment for the View owner, and also rate the recommendation.
New VAR Resources Now Available
Earlier this week, we reached a milestone for Virtual Partner Concierge, adding new functionality that streamlines how U.S. partners who resell Microsoft licensing access their VAR Renewal Workbooks. In the screenshot above, on the right-hand side under Toolbox, there is a link, “Your Customer List.” You will only see the Toolbox if you have a Workbook available to you (again, using Windows Live ID to serve up relevant information). Clicking on “Your Customer List” will take you to a screen that offers you the opportunity to download the Workbook(s) available to you, plus link to additional resources related to that activity.
In conjunction with this new functionality, we launched a Value-Added Resellers view within Concierge, to complement these resources and offer you additional suggestions for online content that VARs will find useful. It is available to all Concierge users—simply scroll down in “My Views” (these are organized alphabetically).
What’s Next for Virtual Partner Concierge?
Over the past year, growing partner usage of Concierge, and feedback about the experience and what users would like to see has helped me enlist more subject-matter experts to use Concierge as a way to inform and connect with U.S. partners, and I’m continuing to work with my colleagues to get them up and running. Concierge is complementary to the U.S. partner portal, other partner-facing Microsoft sites, and to our outreach through the U.S. partner newsletter and U.S. Partner Community social media. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be evaluating suggested features and enhancements from partners to determine how to continue to add value to Concierge for you.